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'Fostering Family' initiative offers ways for people and businesses to help foster youth

Target employees assembled gift baskets for children in foster care.
Courtesy of Amara
Target employees assembled gift baskets for children in foster care.

Since 2012, the number of children in foster care in Washington has climbed more than 20 percent, with almost 9,000 kids and teens currently in out-of-home placements. The state lacks enough foster homes and some foster children have had to sleep in hotels.

A new initiative in the Puget Sound region called Fostering Family aims to raise awareness and let people and businesses know about different ways to help.

Katie Ferguson manages the program, which was started by a nonprofit called Amara, an organization that licenses foster parents and provides other services for children in foster care. She said one thing people can do is volunteer in one of Amara's emergency sanctuaries in Pierce and King counties. The sanctuaries offer a temporary home to children right after they've been removed from an unsafe living situation.

“We have staff and volunteers there 24/7 who just really create a warm, safe environment for them where they can just be kids,” Ferguson said. “They go to the zoo. They have meals cooked for them. They can go to the movies — just things that are more fun and try to have that be a time that’s a little bit less challenging for such a traumatic time.”

Other ways for individuals to help include babysitting or cooking a meal for a neighbor who is fostering a child. People also can sort donated items or mentor a young person who has aged out of foster care.

For businesses, there are opportunities to donate expertise or products. For example, Molly Moon's has donated ice cream for events that celebrate families being reunited, Ferguson said. And a Seattle business called Parker Staffing plans to help teens and young adults.

“They’re going to be offering workshops to help youth with their résumé building, with their interview preparation, so that way youth who have had some challenging experiences in their life have those resources and supports to be able to have better outcomes lifelong,” she said.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.